By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express
A small group of residents turned out to a recent City of Oshawa open house to share their opinions on filling the vacant seat on council and their voices were united.
Of the options available to council, the residents want to see a current elected official appointed to fill the regional and city councillor seat left behind by Bob Chapman’s resignation. With that said, the city is still accepting comments via an online survey. According to city clerk Andrew Brouwer, approximately 50 respondents have completed the survey so far. The results of that survey will form part of the final report to council on the appointment method.
“It would make more sense to move somebody up from the city level because they’ve got the experience,” said resident George Milosh.
The same was said by resident Jane Hurst.
“It just makes so much sense because when you’re a city councillor you have more of an appreciation for what’s going on at the regional level,” she said.
Among other options for councillors are the possibility of nominating a qualified outside individual to the role, or having an open call for interested individuals to come forward. Council could also appoint someone from the candidate list from the 2014 municipal election.
The current option desired by the residents at the open house is akin to how council filled the vacancy left behind by the sudden passing of former councillor Nancy Diamond in 2017. In that situation, council moved Councillor Doug Sanders from a city council role to a regional and city councillor position while bringing in Councillor Gail Bates to fill the subsequently open city position.
Residents did not provide any word on who they would like to see fill the vacant city councillor position should council choose to appoint one of the existing councillors.
If council goes with this option, they will have three choices to pick from, including appointing Councillor John Shields or Bates to the role, both of whom have filed their nomination papers for the October municipal election (Shields already putting his name forward to move from a city councillor position to a regional role). Council could also choose Councillor Rick Kerr to fill the spot.
And while Bates tells The Oshawa Express that she’s not interested in the role, preferring to stay on at the city level, both Kerr and Shields, left the possibility open if council were to choose that route.
Councillor Kerr noted that it’d be too early to say for sure and that the decision would be “at the will of council.”
“All I’m interested in is serving my city and if council believed the best way the city can be served is by having me step into that role, then I would,” he said.
For Councillor Shields, he expressed a preference to being elected to the role, but acknowledges that an appointment is necessary in this situation.
“My preference of course is to be elected to my elected positions, I feel very strongly about that. However the policy does dictate an appointment in this current situation. If the culmination of the public input indicated the method you mentioned as the preference, I would give it thoughtful consideration,” he says.
Moving forward, council will be hosting a public meeting in order to gather direct feedback from residents on May 22 where they will also consider the method they wish to pursue for filling the vacancy. A final decision and appointment is set to be made at council’s June 25 meeting.
And while the process has been criticized for perhaps being too long, it is dictated under the city’s recently approved Councillor Vacancy Policy. The policy was created following public ire surrounding the way in which Diamond’s empty seat had been filled, with the vacancy being declared and appointments being made in the same night.
During the open house, residents expressed their approval of the new policy.
“I’m just happy that we have a policy that’s in place and it makes a lot of sense,” Hurst said.